Got dirty data?
If you’ve never heard this term before, chances are you do, and that means it’s time for some data hygiene.
In this article, we’ll explain what data hygiene is, why it’s important, and what you can do to achieve a totally “clean machine” status with your data.
What Is Data Hygiene?
In order to understand what data hygiene is, let’s take a look at the term “dirty data” for a moment.
Dirty data or rogue data is data that contains errors, incomplete information, inconsistencies, and inaccuracies. It is unclear, disorganized, outdated, or all three. Cleaning up dirty data, then, means maintaining good data hygiene.
As Ravi Jain of Technijian puts it, “Having proper data hygiene means your consumer identity data is clean, standardized, [and] free of errors, and all entries for a single consumer are linked. [This] ensures that consumers will have the best possible experience, leading to improved customer retention.”
Mike Shelah of Advantage Industries (Getadvantage.com) puts it another way: “Data hygiene is simply a process for any company to secure and protect their data.”
Why Care About Your Data Hygiene?
Companies and organizations in any industry are faced with a big challenge when it comes to updating and maintaining their data because the truth is, their customers, clients, patients, and patrons expect them to be virtually perfect.
There’s really nothing that can be done about this.
If you send an accidental duplicate marketing email, if you don’t update addresses, if you spell someone’s name wrong, if you refer to someone as a her when they are really a him, if you email the wrong address … these are all marks against you.
And people remember.
Says Ravi Jain: “When data is inaccurate or ‘broken,’ there’s a high risk of alienating consumers with irrelevant communications.”
Then there’s the time and energy you and your company waste with dirty data. Ravi goes on: “[You can] waste time and resources associated with calling the wrong number or sending emails that bounce.”
If you don’t pay attention to your business’s data hygiene, it’s truly a lose-lose for everyone.
How Can You Improve Your Data Hygiene Practices?
At any given moment, most companies can improve their data hygiene. Like personal hygiene, it’s something that can never be “done,” so it always needs work.
Setting up quality data hygiene systems is the best way to go about this. In other words, start from the very beginning to prune erroneous data and make sure data is regularly audited.
Don’t know where to start?
If today is your first time thinking about data hygiene, Ravi Jain recommends these steps:
- Perform an audit
- Establish standardization rules
- Automate data cleansing
- Update data as frequently as possible — ideally in real-time
- Sever organizational silos
Mike Shelah goes into a bit more detail with his suggestions:
1. Maintain updated technology: It should be “current or [supportive of] a current operating system, maintained, [and] updated & password protected.”
2. Budget specifically for data hygiene: “These things cost money, stop thinking of it as an expense, and starting think of it as an investment. Pay a little now or pay a lot more later.”
3. Set up policies and procedures around your data: “When you have a breach, what is your first step? Your second? Who does what? Does your entire staff know? Is everything documented and easily accessible? Do you hold monthly training to advise staff?”
4. Have a plan for every new customer: “Any time you take on a new customer, a new product, or a new employee asks, ‘how does this impact my technology & cybersecurity?’ ” Ask questions, and feel around to be aware of any and all impacts, and be sure it’s all documented.
Experts recommend that you act on these steps and tips quarterly so that data is “checked on” multiple times throughout the year. If you have questions about carrying out any of these data hygiene steps, speak with a quality MSP in your area about setting up data hygiene within your contract.